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Arizona vs. Washington: Women look to deliver in Seattle

Jake Lacey/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Redshirt junior guard Joy Hollingsworth drives to the bucket Jan. 12 against Oregon State during the Wildcats' last home stand. Hollingsworth stepped up big against California on Sunday, scoring a career-high 23 points, and will be needed to step up again tonight, as the Wildcats continue a four-game road trek at Washington.
By Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 26, 2006
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When the Arizona women's basketball team heads into Seattle to play the Huskies tonight at 7, it will face a team riding an emotional roller coaster, a ride the Wildcats are all too familiar with this season.

Ranked second in the Pacific 10 Conference, the Huskies (13-4, 6-2) are an imposing foe for the Wildcats (7-12, 3-6). They are coming off a weekend split on the road against the Oregon schools but will be without the services of redshirt senior guard Kayla Burt.

Burt, who had an internal heart defibrillator implanted after she suddenly went into cardiac arrest on New Year's Eve in 2002, retired Jan. 16 after that defibrillator was activated four days earlier during a game against UCLA.

"I think as soon as I got carried away in that ambulance, and once I got to the hospital and they told me it had fired appropriately ... it was pretty clear to me that I don't ever want that to happen again," she said in a press conference announcing her retirement last week.

"The only way to eliminate that is to not be on the court again playing basketball," she added. "So the decision was pretty easy for myself and my family to make."

The Arlington, Wash., native made her inspiring return to the team in August of 2004 after spending the 2003-04 season as a student assistant coach. Burt didn't just make an emotional return but also brought her game with her, leading the team in scoring with 9.6 points per game as well as assists (2.9 per game).

"Her legacy is unbelievable," Washington head coach June Daugherty said. "Everyone knew how talented she was. Everybody knows what a great basketball player she is."

Now, minus Burt, the team will look to her as an inspiration the rest of the season.

"We have a very talented group of players who I know are more than willing to step up, and what better reason to step up than for Kayla Burt," Daugherty said.

As for Arizona, coming off a huge win at California Sunday, the Wildcats bring four Seattle-area players home to the face the Huskies - redshirt junior guard Joy Hollingsworth, sophomore forward Ché Oh and freshmen guards Malia O'Neal and Kelsey Burns.

"We have four players from Seattle looking forward to playing at home," Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini said. "My job is to make sure we're ready to play but also keep everyone focused."

Team's spirits up after upset win

Despite playing without two starters Sunday - Oh (concussion) and freshman forward Amina Njonkou (sore foot) were out - the Wildcats managed an 80-76 win over Cal, thus putting to rest all notions of a losing streak, the team now winning two of their past three games.

"Yeah, I like it," Bonvicini said with a smile. "Two out of three feels better."

After suffering through a five-game losing streak before that, the team is beginning to focus on something that hasn't been a constant this season: having fun.

"Most people, when they're thinking of Cal-Arizona, they're probably thinking 'OK, Cal's probably going to beat Arizona. They don't have Ché Oh, they don't have Amina,'" sophomore guard Jessica Arnold said. "It was a great win for us. It was exciting, we all had fun.

"That's how we need to play for the rest of the season," she added.

Arnold, who scored a season-high 14 points in the win, said she thinks the game could stick out as a turning point in her season when she looks back on it.

"It's been disappointing for myself this season," she said. "I haven't really ... been up to the expectations that everyone thought I was going to be at.

"But it was definitely a breakout game for me," added Arnold, who connected on 5-of-14 of her shots, including 3-of-6 from behind the arc. "Maybe I got my shot back."

"We're looking to build off of (the win over Cal), especially going into the second part of conference play," said Hollingsworth, who also had a season high against Cal with 23 points. "It was a big win. (It) gives us some momentum to go on the road to Washington and play hard there."

Bonvicini listed Oh as "probable" with her concussion. After being held out of practice on Tuesday, she was scheduled to go through some light workouts yesterday, after which Bonvicini said she would judge whether or not Oh would be able to play tonight.

Njonkou, who missed the first three months of the season with a stress fracture in her right foot, was back participating in conditioning drills in a boot in practice Tuesday and was listed as day-to-day.

The team arrived in Seattle yesterday and practiced at O'Neal's former high school, Garfield High, in Seattle.

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